I think what many of us can appreciate, is taking the time to appreciate other people’s talents; whether it be in sport, academia, music or film. I remember a couple years ago now in high school I’d finish the day with the boys, mostly of Pacific Islander background, who’d without a thought would whip out a guitar and start singing a catchy tune - a talent I’d fail helplessly at upholding. A talent Mohamad Mustapha however, managed to capture, behind a lens.
Mohamad Mustapha, founder of QUESTion and Director/Writer of short-film ‘Falls’, began perfecting his craft whilst studying at JMC Academy in Sydney and filming music videos for local Polynesian artists. His work portfolio includes filming alongside talent, D.S.S, Swiss, Sammy J and Sprawnbreezie to name a few. As 2016 approaches, Moey’s committed, creative mindset has led him to his short film ‘Falls’ premiering at this year’s Pasifika Film Festival. I caught up with the young director to gain a better insight into how the concept of film has influenced a path of continued growth and exploration.
How early did your interest in film begin and how did you start out?
I've always been a massive film fan since high school. When I first got here [Australia] when I was 10 years old from Singapore, my English wasn’t really that good so I found it really hard to make friends in the beginning. I spent a lot of time either reading books or watching films and my passion for films started from there. It was a passion for film as a film lover more than a film maker at that point and it wasn’t until after I finished high school that I saw an ad for a film school, JMC Academy. I decided to join up and it all started from there where over the next two and a half years I did a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film Production. I worked on that and the first big project I did was a documentary called Exodus, a documentary on Pacific Islander youths, which was for an assignment. I told myself then and there, that if I do a good job with this documentary then maybe I might actually have potential to do this [short films], so that was a challenge I set myself and I did it and I’m still proud of it.
Congratulations on having your short film 'Falls' in this year’s Film Festival - can you tell us how the idea for the story developed, who was involved and how you came across Pasifika Film Fest?
For quite a while I wanted to do short films. After doing all these music videos for the last five years or so I knew that creating a short film was what I wanted. I guess I just didn’t have the right story to tell in that point in time. It wasn’t until this year I went on a hike for the first time, the same hike you see in the film, Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains. I went by myself and I fell in love with it, I fell in love with what I saw and the experience of it. I thought of how quiet it was there, how it would be a good spot for a shoot and it all started from there. All I had to do was come up with a narrative around the idea. I met up with an old friend of mine, Jonathan, who’s the producer for the film. I told him about an idea I had and he said, “Well okay, if you want to do it I’ll be willing to fund it”. So I gave myself about 2-3 weeks to write a short story around the location and that’s how it really started off.
Tell us about the interest ‘Falls’ has received internationally.
Originally, my main aim was to enter a film festival - this later changed to specifically being the Pasifika Film Festival (PFF). When we started working on the film, we started seeing ads for PFF submissions, so we specifically made this film for the festival. When we received the announcement that our submission was accepted, that was it – we thought we’d done what we had set out to do, but then I started looking around and tried my luck in entering ‘Falls’ in to other festivals. It was accepted into a film festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, called the Film Festival of Spirituality, Religion and Visionary – we entered, our submission was accepted and we’ve just recently found out it won the International Award Of Excellence.
As the founder of QUESTion, tell us how the idea was created?
It started off when I was still in film school. We wanted to create a collective of creatives; we had myself as a film maker, producers, musicians, artists, even graphic designers. I specifically targeted the Polynesian market because at that time, there was a huge niche market - as far as I knew there were barely any Polynesian videos, maybe in NZ but not here [in Australia]. So that was the aim,
"I wanted to target that market, because when I would see Polynesian youth out there, there was a lot of talent, just no platform"
- they’d just jam on the train or at the train station. So that’s how we really started off. And it wasn’t until I did a video for D.S.S ‘is you’, that it really took off, I think it was because a lot of Polynesian kids out there could relate to the talent and to see one of their own doing what they usually do, got their attention. It was exciting at that time to create the videos - it was new, it was fresh, it was something Pacific youth could relate to.
What do you have in the works at the moment - are there plans in the future, film related, you’d like to share?
Right now there’re two projects I’m focused on, one is currently still Falls – I’m aiming to submit it through to more festivals. We have submitted Falls to one more festival in Sydney, one in French Polynesia and one in Singapore. I’m aiming to enter our work on to more platforms next year, especially NZ festivals but while we’re doing that, I’m currently writing another short film for next year which will probably be entered into the next Pasifika Film Festival. Right now those are my two projects - my aim is just to create maybe four or five short films before we start on a feature.
What importance does the Film Festival have on encouraging Pasifika youth’s to share their stories?
I think it’s important for any indigenous culture to have platforms - creative platforms especially to share their stories. It creates a sense of belonging among such a multicultural society here in Australia and it’s nice to see something familiar to Pacific people on a platform such as film to showcase their stories.
"To have a film festival to do with a specific culture and your own culture is somewhere you can feel a sense of belonging which I think is important. "
Having a platform like this can encourage others to get their own work out there – it really sets a great example of what can be achieved when you see your own people participating in events like the Pasifika Film Fest.
Falls will be showing at Hoyts Entertainment Quater, Moore Park NSW on Saturday Nov 7th 5.00pm-7.00pm, so be sure to check out it out! Tickets are available for purchase on our webiste - just click 'BUY TICKETS' tab on the tool bar!
Facebook: Moey Mustapha
Youtube: Youtube.com/TheQKrew (Exodus - Documentary On Islander Youths)